Being around beautiful food all the time at the restaurant, I almost never crave anything specific. When I do have a craving, it's for bright, herbaceous, zippy flavours with a variety of textures, a little heat and a touch of sweet. Rice paper rolls check all the boxes for me. If you've eaten at a Vietnamese or Thai restaurant, you’ve likely seen them (also called summer rolls or salad rolls). Generally, a rehydrated rice paper wrapper encloses rice noodles, a protein (usually shrimp), lettuce and other vegetables, herbs, peanuts or other nuts, and is served with a dipping sauce.
They are not difficult to make, but there are specific ingredients you will need to source at an Asian market or the foreign food section of your grocery store. And although it takes a little manual dexterity to handle the rice paper, after a couple of rolls, you will get the hang of it. This is a great thing to do with the kids - or to start off a dinner party, set out the ingredients, open some wine, and let your friends customize their own appetizer!
Snow Crab Rice Paper Rolls
Makes 12 rolls (enough to serve 4)
300 g (approx.) rice vermicelli noodles
12 large rice paper wrappers
12 ozs Newfoundland snow crab leg meat
1 large carrot, peeled into ribbons, or coarsely shredded
1 cucumber, peeled into ribbons, or cut into matchsticks
12 leaves of tender lettuce (iceberg is too stiff and could tear the rice paper)
1 bunch fresh mint, leaves pulled from stems
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce:
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or lemon or lime juice)
1 tsp honey (or sugar)
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated finely
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1 tsp (or to taste) sriracha or other hot sauce
Sauce: In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine soy sauce, water, vinegar, honey, ginger and garlic. Warm for 30 seconds. Whisk in peanut butter until smooth. Add hot sauce. The sauce should be thick for dipping but not solid. Set aside.
Prepare filling: Soak rice noodles in very hot tap water for about 5 minutes. Taste; they should be firm, but tender enough to bite through. If necessary, refresh hot water and soak a few minutes more. Drain and set aside. Prepare vegetables.
Make the rice paper rolls: Fill a bowl larger than the rice papers with very hot tap water. Discard any cracked wrappers. Working with one wrapper at a time, dip the rice paper in the hot water, rotating to ensure all parts get wet. In less than a minute, the rice paper will become pliable; remove from water and lay on a clean work surface. On the third of the rice paper nearest you, with 1-inch clearance on three sides, place a half-palm sized log of rice noodles, 1 oz crab meat, handful of cashews, 4-5 each of the carrot and cucumber ribbons, 4-5 mint leaves and a lettuce leaf. Roll up from the bottom, tucking the sides as you go to form a neat, tight roll. Repeat with all wrappers. Serve with dipping sauce.